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Michele Quintaglie, UN World Food Programme
"We need to be getting food aid out"
 real 28k

Friday, 3 March, 2000, 18:26 GMT
Long task ahead for aid workers
Flood victims wading through water
Around one million people have been affected
As the race continues to save thousands of people marooned by Mozambique's floods, aid workers are warning that the relief effort could take months.

Once the immediate rescue operation is over, the survivors will need safe drinking water, sanitation, shelter and food.

This will have to be provided in the context of a shattered infrastructure, with many roads and bridges washed away.

"It is not just rescue and evacuation," says Ian MacLeod of the United Nations Children's Fund.

People rush to join a helicopter
Helicopter rescues continue
"The immediate rescue of people stranded on roofs and in trees is just the beginning."

Fourteen helicopters, 12 from South Africa and two from Malawi, have been plucking people from treetops and roofs.

South Africa has so far spent more than $3m helping Mozambique cope with the worst flooding in 50 years.

Europe is flying in at least 15 helicopters and the US is sending another three from a base in the UK.

But it is what happens after the helicopters have left that worries aid workers.

"Then we need to ensure that those people on high ground have food, shelter, clean water, health facilities and qualified doctors and nurses," says Mr MacLeod.

"Mozambique has a lot of qualified doctors so the government will help co-ordinate that."

Threat of disease

Muddy flood-waters contaminated by the dead bodies of humans and cattle, and the close proximity of people living in dirty conditions make an ideal breeding ground for infectious disease.

Man on roof calls for help
Many are stranded
Water-borne diseases like cholera and malaria are already spreading due to the breakdown in sanitary conditions.

Cholera, one of the main dangers following any natural disaster, causes chronic diarrhoea and vomiting and can lead to severe dehydration followed, in extreme cases, by death.

Aid workers faced with this threat aim to provide supplies of oral rehydration salts and antibiotics and to ensure there are proper sanitation methods for disposing of sewage, as well as adequate drinking water and good food hygiene.

Costs

The long-term impact of the floods on a country, where seven out of ten people already live on less than $1 a day, is likely to be immense.

Officials estimate it will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild Mozambique and have urged Western donors to write off the country's $8.3bn external debt, on which it pays up to $1.4m in interest a week.

Until the floods, Mozambique was one of Africa's favoured nations.

It had seen double-digit growth in the last few years following its ruinous civil war.

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